Maximum Ride: School’s Out – Forever (6/10)

The sequel to James Patterson’s thrilling first chapter is, sad to say, disappointing. The first half of the book plods along at a dreadfully slow pace as the kids find a home with an unbelievably perky and happy pseudo-mother who’s every word made me want to smack her. The writing isn’t mature enough to adequately do justice to these kids’ integration into the public school system, and all their interactions with kids only throw further into light inconsistencies in the book. Max is completely baffled by normal social interaction, but yet she uses phrases like, “totally”, “crap”, and she interacts with her “family” that way too.

What made the first book enjoyable was that it was a nonstop thrill ride that barely ever paused to catch its breath. It was a chase novel that knew what it wanted to give us and didn’t fail. In this one, Patterson makes the mistake of making a dog talk, usually a bad decision. Total, the dog, has no imaginative lines and for the most part seems simply like a gimmick. Patterson also makes the mistake of trying to have it both ways – deep complex emotional interactions combined with cringe-inducing lines like, “Wasn’t that so great?”

It really seems as if Patterson took everything that was bad about the first book and multiplied it by two. He was like, “Huh, people identified with Max’s teen lingo, I’ll make it happen twice as much!” The only problem is, the first one had just the right amount without hitting us over the head with it. I finished the book a minute ago and my head is still thundering. The first one also featured a healthy amount of emotional scenes, but not too much. Patterson crams the entire first half of the book with cheesy over-the-top I love you so much scenes. And the fact that Max admits they’re cheesy doesn’t help that they are cheesy. In a sense I admire Patterson for trying to add dimension to these mostly one-dimensional characters, but he did it very sloppily.

That being said, the second half of the book picks things up and moves them at a brisk and well clipped pace that does justice to the speed of the original. It almost makes up for the sheer cheesy awfulness of the first half. Unfortunately, the dog is still along for the ride, so his annoying presence is always there.

One thing I did love about this book, and not the first one, was that the main villain, Ari, was given a lot of page space from his point of view, so we were given a chance to see why he is so evil and why he wants to kill Max so badly. The villains of the book get a lot more in general, so it was good to see them portrayed as more than just evildoers out to do evil for the sole purpose of doing evil.

There are two main problems with these series, and one of them is that the main crisis, why these kids were created, why they’re so important, the kids’ quest to find out more, and all that, isn’t interesting or well developed enough to be worth all the time that is spent on them. Sometimes Patterson seems he is making things up as he goes along. I never get the impression there’s a clear anything going on behind the scenes. The other problem is that all the adult characters are either unbelievable morons or raging lunatics. None of the adults stand out as anything other than villainous, and this is due more to the poor writing than the kids’ perspective. Anne, especially, in this novel, is so one-dimensional and simple-minded that I thought a cardboard cutout could have done a better job taking care of the kids.

Despite all the flaws, though, the Maximum Ride series, in general, and especially the first one, are first and foremost a thrill ride from beginning to end, with solid central characters (minus the dog) and a decently intriguing premise.

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